Drawing a virtual line
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Last week’s tragic events in St. Paul left the entire community, and beyond, reeling in disbelief. As the news broke of a vehicle crashing into a local school, media near and far converged in St. Paul and social media was flooded with a variety of opinions and comments on the situation.
In just mere minutes of the incident occurring, nearly every posting on my personal Facebook newsfeed mentioned the accident. Sadly, not everything that was posted was factual and I still cannot wrap my mind around some of the things that were posted, why people felt the urge to post such things, and how some people seem to be completely clueless to any sort of online etiquette.
Before parents were even notified of the accident, people were posting things that I’m sure could have caused much panic in some people’s minds. Many assumptions were made about the details concerning the events of the day and made public via social media.
While reading some of the comments posted alongside news stories about the accident, I wondered to myself if people had even read the stories they were commenting on, given how some statements were completely inconsistent with the details in the stories.
I believe many people are unaware of where to draw the line when it comes to social media and what they should or shouldn’t be posting. Name-calling, serious personal judgments, and strong opinions seem to easily flow off people’s fingertips, although I’m sure those same words would not flow as easily off their tongues if they were face-to-face with the person they were directing those comments to.
I certainly post a lot of personal photos and information on my own Facebook page, but I also make sure to draw a line in what I post. Why would I post something that I would never say in a face-to-face conversation with someone? I do find it much easier to speak my mind in a written form, rather than verbally, so things may come out in a different manner, but the main ideas should remain the same.
For example, if you have the courage to call someone an idiot over Facebook, I wonder if you have the same amount of courage to call him or her an idiot to his or her face. I doubt it.
One thing I realized as I read over (sometimes in disbelief) last week’s comments, was that most of the people making the most absurd or rude remarks were adults and not young people. I hope that’s a sign that since growing up with the technology, youth have learned early that they must be mindful online.
In the end, I strongly believe social media will continue to play a crucial role in how we communicate in society, especially in traumatic times. Along with all the craziness I came across, I came across a lot of positives. People gathered together, albeit in a virtual way, and shared their sorrows and grief and found a common ground.
Even Friday evening’s vigil that was held at Racette School began as a Facebook event created at 11 p.m. on Thursday night. Less than 24 hours later, it had turned into a truly touching event where real people gathered, face-to-face, to find strength and support.
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